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How to Care For Camellias

A Basic Guide - By Debbie Odom

Many problems occur in our gardens and landscapes with camellias due to improper planning and care.  There are basic vital elements for camellias to survive and do well.


Camellias like a balanced diet and constantly available nutrients.  Spotty fertilizing here and there and liquid feeding one per year won’t usually do the trick.  Pick a fertilizer formulated for camellias, create a seasonal fertilizing plan, and stick to it.   There are many types of camellia fertilizer on the market today.  Always read the package directions.  Choosing a fertilizer that is made for camellias and acid loving plants will ensure that you are giving them what’s best for them.  A liquid feeding once per season is not doing a thing.  If you use a liquid, you must use it every 10 days during the growing season for it to be effective.  There are some wonderful organic fertilizers on the market today for acid loving plants.  Try one out – it’s safe for your plants, you and the environment.

Soil pH

Soil pH is the level of acidity or alkalinity in the soil.  Camellias prefer a soil pH of 5.8 to 6.5 which is acid soil.  PH controls the general overall health of the plant.  With an incorrect pH, nutrients may not be drawn up into the plant as needed.  A good soil meter is always helpful, but if in doubt about your soil, take a soil sample to your county extension service and have them run an analysis on it.  You can correct if necessary once the test comes back.


Camellia need oxygen to breath – roots especially.  Packing too much soil on top of the root mass when planting can deplete the oxygen supply to the roots and thus result in plant suffocation.  It is imperative that proper planting procedures are taken when planting camellias.  Mulching the top of the root surface is ok, dirt on top is not.


Water is a vital element in camellia success or failure.  Too much your plant could develop root rot, especially if in soil that doesn’t drain well.  Not enough, and your plant could dehydrate.  Severe water issues could result in plant death.  Make sure your plant is in an area that is well drained, and that your plant gets adequate water to remain moist, but not wet at all times.


Most camellias prefer a shadier location, but there are many varieties that will do well if you have more sun.  Close attention to the above vital elements for camellias planted in sun is necessary as they will use more water, and more nutrients that ones planted in the shade.   Every variety of camellias has its own special needs.  If in doubt, ask someone who knows about the variety you are planting.  Sometimes a little question can solve a lot of problems down the line.


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